Martin Maldonado has been the backup catcher for Jonathan Lucroy and the Milwaukee Brewers since 2012, but now that his former catching mate has a new home in Texas, Maldonado’s role is a bit undefined. Will he start for the rebuilding Brewers in 2017? Or will Craig Counsell go with the newly acquired Andrew Susac or will the 29-year-old Manny Pina — who put up an impressive .346 OBP in limited action last season — get the job?
Before we go into who Maldonado is as a player, we first need to look at his contract. In 2015, the Brewers signed him to a two-year, $1.9 million deal. After that finishes up this year, he still won’t be eligible for free agency until 2019, which means the Brewers have some flexibility with what they decide to do with him.
If I were a betting man, I’d be willing to bet that Maldonado will assume backup duties once again this season. Because the fact is, he’s just not that good. The 30 year old has produced a 71 wRC+ and .299 on-base percentage, and his 2.7 career WAR is mainly a product of his defense, as his skills behind home plate are continually above average (he ranked 12th in pitch framing last season, according to Stat Corner). We know what we’re going to get from Maldonado offensively. Some pop, but low on-base skills. We’ve seen that every year from him. His ceiling has already been reached, and his floor keeps lowering with each turn of the calendar. With that said, though, he did manage to tie a career-high with eight home runs during the 2016 campaign, yet expecting that kind of offensive output again — especially if he remains the backup — is a little asinine.
Maldonado’s future in Milwaukee looks like it may be coming to an end. The Brewers are high on the aforementioned Susac and really, really believe — despite his down year in the minors — in Jacob Nottingham. After Maldondao’s contract runs out, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Brewers moved on from their backup catcher. In all likelihood, he’ll still be a cheap player, which is something that is important to David Stearns, but there’s no value left in him. He is what he is. 2017 could be the last time Brewers’ fans root for Maldonado.
Assuming Maldonado is on the bench to start the season, Susac should get the Opening Day nod from Counsell. He’s not the youngest player (he’ll be 27 on March 22), but he’s proven he can hit in both the minors and the majors. By no means will he be the catcher when the Brewers are ready to compete, but he would at the very least be a better filler than Maldonado.
Milwaukee has already seen a plethora of veterans leave the club, and it’s only a matter of time before it says goodbye to one more in Maldonado.